Are you wondering whether smoked salmon is cooked or raw? You’re not alone. It’s a question that many people ask, especially those who are new to eating seafood.
The answer, however, is not as straightforward as you might think because smoked salmon can be cooked or raw. It depends on the smoking method used for the fish.
There are two common ways to smoke salmon — hot smoking and cold smoking. The result is quite different, but I really love to eat both types of smoked salmon!
Cold-smoked salmon is considered raw since it’s not exposed to high temperatures during the smoking process. On the other hand, hot-smoked salmon is cooked all the way through because it’s smoked at high temperatures for several hours.
But there are also many other things to know about smoked salmon. Like, how to cook and store hot and cold-smoked salmon? And is it safe to consume raw or partially cooked smoked salmon?
Let’s find out!
Basics of Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon is a preparation of salmon that has been cured and then smoked. The curing process involves rubbing the salmon with salt and sometimes other seasonings, which helps to preserve it and give it flavor.
A popular ingredient in many dishes, smoked salmon can also be enjoyed on its own as an appetizer.
There are two main types of smoked salmon:
Hot-smoked salmon is cooked all the way through during the smoking process, as it is smoked at temperatures ranging from 150°F to 250°F for anywhere from 1 hour to as long as 6 hours.
The heat from the smoking process will cook the salmon thoroughly, making it safe to eat without any additional cooking required. Hot-smoked salmon has a soft and flaky texture and a smoky flavor that pairs well with many different dishes.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy hot-smoked salmon:
- Hot from the smoker with side dishes like salad and boiled or fried potatoes
- Cold in salads (e.g. Greek feta salad)
- On top a toast (e.g. avocado toast)
- In pasta sauces (creamy or tomato-based)
Cold-smoked salmon is still considered raw, despite the fact that it has a longer shelf life and a more distinct flavor palette compared to plain raw salmon. It’s smoked at low temperatures ranging from 70°F to 80°F for a minimum of 12 hours.
The low smoking temperatures used for cold smoking won’t have much effect on raising the internal temperature of the fish. Cold-smoked salmon has a firm and smooth texture and a fresh flavor that is often preferred by those who enjoy raw fish.
Here is how I like to eat my cold-smoked salmon:
- As a cold appetizer on its own or with bread/crackers and cream cheese
- Tossed into various types of salads (e.g. ceviche)
- On top of a toasted bread
- In creamy pasta sauces
Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?
If smoked salmon is raw or cooked depends on the smoking method used to prepare the salmon. When the salmon is cooked to an internal temperature of 145 Fahrenheit (63°C) or above it can be considered fully cooked and not raw anymore. If the internal temperature is below that, the salmon is at least partially raw.
As I mentioned earlier, smoked salmon can be smoked hot or cold, and the temperature at which the fish is smoked and the smoking time determine whether it is raw or cooked.
So what’s the definition of raw fish?
Raw fish refers to fish that has not been cooked or processed, and it is often served in dishes such as sushi, sashimi, and ceviche. Raw fish can be risky to consume due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Differences Between Cold-Smoked and Hot-Smoked Salmon
Here is a summary of the main differences between cold and hot-smoked salmon:
|Salmon||Cold Smoked||Hot Smoked|
|Texture||Firm and smooth||Soft and flaky|
|Taste||Fresh and smoky||Savory, earthy, smoky|
|Smoking Time||12 to 24 hours||1 to 6 hours|
|Smoking Temp||75 – 90 °F||150 – 250 °F|
Hot-Smoked Salmon – Cooking Process & Storage
Hot-smoked salmon is smoked at relatively high temperatures and is considered cooked. The heat from the smoking process cooks the fish thoroughly giving it a soft and flaky texture and it also helps to kill any bacteria that may be present in the fish.
Cooking Process of Hot-Smoked Salmon
At its simplest, hot-smoking salmon is a relatively easy and straightforward process. The salmon is placed in a smoker and exposed to heat and smoke at temperatures around 150°F to 250°F for about 1 to 6 hours. The direct heat from the smoker will cook the salmon thoroughly, resulting in a flaky texture and a light brown or reddish color.
There are dozens of ways to cook hot smoked salmon. Some of the most common ones include using charcoal, propane, or electric smoker. And then there are the pellet grills and vertical pellet smokers that are also great options.
But you don’t necessarily need any fancy equipment to hot-smoke a salmon!
The last time I smoked salmon I used a traditional Finnish method where the fish is placed on a grate in a simple metal container. Wood chips are also placed inside the container, under the grease tray.
I used alder wood chips for smoking salmon but there are many other great options as well. Check out my guide with the best wood chips for smoking salmon for more choices.
Next, a small fire is made under the container. It will heat the wood chips inside and the salmon will be cooked in about one hour.
This is not a very exact way of smoking, but since I have a lot of practice, the salmon turns out perfect every time!
Just remember that the exact smoking time of salmon with any method depends on the smoking temperature, the size of the fish, and the desired internal temperature.
Internal Temperature of Hot-Smoked Salmon
Hot-smoked salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 Fahrenheit, which is the minimum safe temperature for cooked fish according to the USDA. This ensures that any harmful bacteria present in the fish are destroyed, making it safe to consume.
However, I recommend not cooking your salmon to a much higher temperature than 145 Fahrenheit because it will easily become too dry and develop an unpleasant chalky mouthfeel.
How Long Does Hot-Smoked Salmon Keep?
Hot smoked salmon lasts longer than raw or cold smoked salmon because it has been cooked to a higher internal temperature, pasteurizing it and killing most bacteria.
The length of time you can safely store hot smoked salmon depends on how it was smoked and packaged and how it is stored.
If you buy a vacuum-sealed salmon from a grocery store it will usually last up to 2 weeks from the original smoking date in the refrigerator and 2-12 months in the freezer. When you smoke your own salmon, it can last up to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator if the salmon was smoked properly.
Cold-Smoked Salmon – Cooking Process & Storage
Cold-smoked salmon is considered raw but it’s usually safe to consume due to the smoking process that helps to preserve the fish. However, if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, it’s best to avoid consuming raw fish altogether.
Cooking Process of Cold-Smoked Salmon
Cold-smoked salmon is prepared by smoking the fish at temperatures between 75-90°F (24-32°C). This process involves exposing the fish to smoke for several hours, which imparts a smoky flavor and preserves the fish. Cold-smoking is best done with a salmon fillet that has the skin on.
Unlike hot-smoked salmon, which is cooked through the smoking process, cold-smoked salmon is not cooked. Instead, it is cured and dehydrated by the smoke, giving it a unique texture and flavor.
Cold-smoking salmon is not an easy process to master and you have to be very careful with hygiene and proper smoking conditions. Most smokers can’t maintain the low temperatures required for this process and I recommend getting a separate cold smoke generator if you want to try preparing cold smoked salmon.
Internal Temperature of Cold-Smoked Salmon
Since cold-smoked salmon is not cooked and the internal temperature is barely affected by the smoking process, it’s considered raw.
Therefore, it is essential to handle cold-smoked salmon with care to avoid any potential foodborne illnesses. It is recommended to keep it refrigerated at all times and consume it within a few days of opening the package.
How Long Does Cold-Smoked Salmon Keep?
Cold-smoked salmon has a longer shelf life than plain raw salmon due to the smoking process, which acts as a natural preservative.
When stored correctly in the refrigerator, unopened vacuum-sealed cold-smoked salmon can last for up to two weeks unopened. However, once opened, it should be consumed within a few days to ensure its freshness and safety.
If you prepare your own cold-smoked salmon, I recommend consuming it within 4 to 5 days after smoking.
Health Benefits of Smoked Salmon
Aside from being delicious, smoked salmon also offers several health benefits. Rich in protein and healthy fats, it also contains plenty of B vitamins that play an important role in energy metabolism and the production of red blood cells.
Smoked salmon is a good source of several essential nutrients.
A 3-ounce serving of smoked salmon contains:
- 121 calories
- 16 grams of protein
- 6 grams of fat
- 0 grams of carbohydrates
Smoked salmon is an excellent source of protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body, and it can also help you feel full and satisfied after a meal.
A 3-ounce serving of smoked salmon contains 16 grams of protein but no carbs, making it an excellent protein source for people who follow a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the most significant health benefits of smoked salmon is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are essential for brain function and can help lower the risk of heart disease.
A 3-ounce serving of smoked salmon contains approximately 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. This is more than the daily recommended intake of omega-3s for most people.
Risks of Eating Smoked Salmon
You should also note that there are some risks related to eating smoked salmon:
- Sodium Content: Smoked salmon can be high in sodium, which might concern people on a low-sodium diet. A 3-ounce serving of smoked salmon can contain up to 684 milligrams, about one-third of recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium intake per day.
- Contaminants: One potential risk associated with smoked salmon is the presence of bacteria. Cold-smoked salmon carries the risk of listeriosis and other foodborne illness because it’s not cooked. Hence, it’s not recommended for pregnant women or people with weak immune systems.
- Allergies: If you have a seafood allergy, it’s important to be aware that smoked salmon can still contain allergens. Even hot smoked salmon that is cooked can cause an allergic reaction.
FAQs – Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw
Do you have to cook smoked salmon?
No, you don’t have to cook smoked salmon. While hot-smoked salmon is already cooked, cold-smoked salmon is considered raw but can still be eaten as it is. However, you can cook both types of salmon for example by adding them into a pasta sauce.
Can you eat cold-smoked salmon raw?
Yes, you can eat cold smoked salmon raw but you should make sure it has been properly refrigerated and that it has not gone bad. If kept at room temperature for too long, there is a serious risk of food poisoning.
Also, pregnant women and any person with a weak immune system should not eat cold-smoked salmon.
How to tell if smoked salmon is bad?
Smoked salmon might have gone bad and should not be eaten if you notice a weird smell, sliminess, or dull or discolored surface. Also, it’s better not to eat the salmon if it’s past the expiration date marked on the package.
Is smoked salmon safe to eat?
In general, smoked salmon is safe to eat if it has been stored correctly and is not spoiled. Hot smoked salmon is cooked at a relatively high temperature, killing harmful bacteria.
However, cold smoked salmon is prepared at a low temperature and is considered raw. Therefore, it’s not recommended for pregnant women and young children.
Is any difference in nutritional values of farmed vs wild salmon?
The main difference in nutritional values of farmed and wild salmon is in the total fat content. Farm-raised salmon tend to have more total fat but both seem to contain similar amounts of omega-3s per serving.
Some typical varieties of wild salmon are sockeye salmon and Atlantic salmon. Wild-cough salmon often has a more rich flavor but the prices are also higher compared to farmed salmon.